Grieving the Loss of a Mother
Everybody reacts differently when their mother dies. My mother and I were close and when I lost her, I thought that I would never feel ‘normal’ again. I sometimes couldn’t breathe and was often sick. I couldn’t sleep and had to force myself to eat. Yet somehow through all that, I accepted that this is how it was and I just let it happen. Some days were infinitely harder than others, but as long as I kept coming up for air, and facing that I was meeting my worst fear - losing someone I loved so deeply - somehow I knew that eventually I would be okay.
I felt so conspicuous in my grief - as if there were a big invisible finger pointing down at the top of my head. I felt disconnected from those around me who quite simply didn’t know what to say or what to do. I realised that I looked different: my loss had changed me and I would have to re-learn myself.
It’s important to remember that children learn their coping mechanisms from the adults around them. They may not always understand what you are saying but they watch what you do. Let your children know that you are still there for them even though you may feel like folding. You are still a parent and have that responsibility.
It is vital that we are emotionally honest in all our life events. If your mother’s death is expected, don’t be afraid to include children in the lead up to this event. Use this time to offer them a valuable opportunity to express their love, to say things to their grandmother that are important to them and to share everything that needs to be shared. Experiencing our grief together brings us closer and is all part of the cycle of life. Let the words and the tears flow.
You are teaching your children a very important emotional tool - how to grieve. Create a safe space so they can talk about how they are feeling. You go first and if you cry, talk through your tears. Explain that what you are feeling may be different to how they feel. Each loss experience is as unique to us as our own fingerprint. Try not to offer an opinion on your child’s words, be open and accepting in your body language. Feedback words to show you understand, but don’t interrupt their flow. Don’t try and analyse what they are feeling and don’t compare how you are feeling. Comparisons minimise the importance of their expressions and can affect their self-esteem and confidence and create imaginary failings where there are none.
On Mother’s Day, you will inevitably be thinking of your mother. It’s okay to tell your child that you miss her. Explain that on this special day, you want to share a hug and your tears, to share how losing your mother has made you feel and to openly express your memories.
Somewhere along the line we have surrendered the right to allow ourselves to grieve. We try to hide our tears and swallow the lump in our throats. When we are happy, we feel like sharing our news with everyone. Sadness must be shared too. Both emotions need equal expression. Show your child you are not afraid to be vulnerable in your grief - this is where healing begins.
Memory is how we hold on to the things we love. On Mother’s Day, why not share a special activity with your child? If they don’t want to join in, don’t force it but tell them what you are doing and why. Choose photographs together to make a scrap book or draw pictures. This can evoke lovely conversations and memories. Choose a beautiful memory box for cherished items. Have a memory hour where you think of and share your favourite memories of mum. Our memories are the fruits on the tree of grief.
Thank you to Lianna Champ for this article, previously featured in Families Magazine.
Lianna Champ has over 40 years’ experience in bereavement and grief recovery. Her book How to Grieve Like a Champ is available from Amazon (£9.99).